People were scrambling all over the place; most were clearly nervous. It was like a beehive, made out of camouflage and gunmetal. Transport trucks were pulling up, some were dropping troops who jumped out and took off running, and others were being loaded with supplies; it was a madhouse. Olivia wove her way through the chaos to find the offices where she was instructed to report.
It was going to be different this time. Olivia had always just fallen in line with her unit, but this time she was asked to go to the big office where the senior officers met. She walked down the hall, noticing the polished floor was so clean it looked almost wet, and looked at the framed pictures of old men with countless medals and promotions pinned to their uniforms. When she arrived at the last door, with two troopers guarding the entrance, she could hear several voices talking over each other. She gave the guards her name and rank and said she had orders to report to this office. One of the guards knocked and the room went silent. Olivia backed away just in time for the door to crack open about six inches. She recognized the face peering at her; it was Major Dellucci. He had been stationed with her during a tour in Afghanistan. Olivia had taken orders from Major Dellucci many times; he had even singled her out for special assignments more than once. Once he saw it was she, he invited her in.
“Sergeant Reid, please come in.”
As she surveyed the room, Olivia could see high-ranking officers all the way up to General, folders marked “Classified” were out on the table, and a large computer monitor was projecting something that looked like weather patterns.
“We’ve been discussing the situation. Analyzing the best way to approach what’s happening here.” Major Dellucci said, as he showed Olivia to an open seat. “Simply put, we’ve been able to detect a signal.” The Major gestured toward a man behind the computer. “I’m gonna let the tech guy explain that part of it.”
“Right. Well,” the analyst stammered, “the signal itself isn’t known. I can’t place what it actually is, but we’ve been able to read it within certain sound waves. Specifically, in the 112 kHz range.”
Major Dellucci turned to Olivia. “That’s almost six times the highest pitch a human can hear.”
“Correct.” The analyst continued. “It seems to be pulsing outward, in a manner not unlike sonar.”
“I’m sorry,” Olivia interrupted. “Out from where?”
Everyone looked at Olivia, except Dellucci. He just looked at the floor and rubbed his hand on his chin and replied.
Olivia could feel the familiar twinge of anxiety flutter in her chest. The analyst brought up a video on the monitor.
“The sound waves seem to be expanding outwards in a focused area. Meaning, it’s not like ripples in water, but more like it’s targeting something.”
“Do you have any theories as to what it’s targeting?”
“Actually, we know exactly what it’s targeting…” He trailed off and looked toward the Major who was drawing in a deep breath. One of the other officers cut him off with a gruff and hurried tone.
“Bring up the video.”
The analyst pulled a new window up on the monitor and began explaining.
“The waves have gone out in different directions, but we only ever see them reflect in one instance.”
A video played showing waves gently moving across the screen. At times, a small section of the waves would bounce back in the direction they came from.
“And this is what it looks like when we overlay a map of the area on top.”
The same waves could be seen, but this time an overhead shot of street and houses could be seen. The video looped a couple times before Olivia recognized the neighborhood. They were looking at her street; she could pinpoint the roof of her apartment building.
“When was this?” Olivia asked.
She watched as it played over again. When the sound waves reached her apartment, part of them would suddenly move in the opposite direction. Major Dellucci could tell Olivia was having trouble understanding what they were showing her.
“Bring up the real-time map.” He said.
The video quickly switched to a satellite view of the base. More sound waves entered the screen, and as they arrived at their wing of the building, a portion ricocheted back. The analyst turned to Olivia.
“If these sound waves are a form of sonar, the only thing pinging anything back to the source… is you.”
Olivia felt acutely nervous; she tried to swallow, but realized her mouth was cotton. She started to speak without quite realizing it was her own voice.
“What do you want from me?”
The gruff General spoke up once again.
“Whatever is inside that tomb wants you, so that’s what we’re gonna give it.”
Major Dellucci interjected with a slightly more sensitive approach.
“Sergeant Reid, I can’t tell you if taking all the necessary precautions is worth more than a pile of shit, but we’re gonna do everything we can to keep you safe.”
“I’m not going inside that tomb.” She said, calmly.
“It’s an order, Sergeant.” Dellucci almost looked pained saying it, but he knew that he had to. He continued.
“We don’t know what that thing is capable of. We’re preparing for a massive event… you’re going to be the first to make contact with alien life.”
“No, Major, you want me to be the second.”
Everyone looked uneasy, even the General looked uncomfortable in that moment. Major Dellucci stood and, with his back to Olivia, said, “come with me, Sergeant.”
Olivia followed him into the next room. It was empty, quiet, no troops at the door. Dellucci knew he needed to change the scenery if he had any chance of getting through to her.
“I know it’s asking a lot.” He said.
“It’s a suicide mission.” She said with restraint; she wanted to scream. She wanted to throw something against the wall and tell them they were all crazy, but she was on duty, and acting out to your superiors wasn’t tolerated.
“You don’t know that, Sergeant.”
“I know better than anyone.” She exclaimed. “I can’t tell you how many nightmares I’ve had where I walk into that tomb and have happen to me what happened to my father.”
Major Dellucci narrowed his eyes between the blinds and gazed out the window. There wasn’t much to see out there, but the images in his head were all he could focus on.
“I was there, you know? When your father died. I was in the officer's tent; I saw everything. I was just a runner, a Private days out of basic training, but I knew who he was. He didn’t boast… he didn’t have to. Everyone told the story of his unit being ambushed, and how he got them all out of there alive.
You’ve heard the term ‘voluntold’ by now. Instead of volunteering, you’re ‘voluntold’ for an assignment. When the POTUS gave the order to find someone to approach the sphere, everyone feared they would draw the short straw. Your father, however; decided to step up.”
Dellucci looked to Olivia, his face was stone. “I believe he thought he was saving someone's life by doing it. That’s why he deserves all the honor and respect in the world, and it’s why I looked out for you when you came under my command. His selflessness in that moment when the entire world was frozen in fear can’t possibly be bettered… but it can be matched.” He fixed his posture and raised his head while keeping eye contact with her. “...By you; by making contact with whatever that sphere brought to this Earth.”
“I’m sorry, Major,” Olivia said flatly. “I’ve heard all the stories, and they don’t affect me much anymore. I’m not going to let you serve me up to that thing on a platter, I don’t care if it’s an order.”
Olivia walked out of the room and down the hall. Major Dellucci called after her.
“They’ll take your rank away, Sergeant! Maybe worse!”
She didn’t respond, she just kept walking away.